The Kansas State Wildcats cleared the first hurdle in their race to win the Big 12 Tournament and claiming supremacy over the conference. The Wildcats (14-4, 26-6) ended the season for the Texas Longhorns (7-11, 16-17) by beating them 66-49 Thursday in Kansas City in the second round of the league tournament.
The Longhorns didn’t just roll over at the opening tip. The first half was a physical clash in which Kansas State just couldn’t shake loose of Texas. KSU led at half by six points, 34-28. Even though both teams shot 11-26 (43%) in the half, the Wildcats were 6-10 from three but Texas was only 2-8 from long range.
The game was still in doubt with approximately ten minutes to go when the Wildcats went on a little run. Leading 43-36, Kansas State was sparked by Big 12 First Team member Rodney McGruder. The senior scored 11 of the next 13 points for KSU, including three 3-pointers, and just buried the Longhorns. Texas would only score 13 more points and Kansas State advanced to the next round.
McGruder led all scorers with 24 points and pitched in 7 rebounds for good measure. Angel Rodriguez had 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists for the victors. Julien Lewis topped the Longhorns with 13 points, and Jonathan Holmes added 10. Texas’ Star guard Myck Kabongo had a horrible night, only scoring 2 points from the free throw line. He was 0-5 from the field. He did have 7 assists but turned the ball over 5 times as well. The Longhorns finish the season under .500 at 16-17.
The Wildcats have been on a run where they have had a great number of assists. They only totaled 10 assists Thursday night on their 22 made shots, and they only out rebounded the Texas Longhorns by one. They need to get back to the crisp passing they have exhibited in the last several games. Kansas State did play terrific defense though. They forced 15 turnovers, 7 by way of steals, and only committed 7 turnovers themselves. They held the Longhorns to only 34% shooting from the field (17-50), and 26% from 3-point range (5-19). They will need to match that effort tonight when Kansas State takes on #3 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys, who survived a late rally by Baylor to win 74-72, at 9:00 on Friday. The Cowboys offer a tough mix of great athleticism with a rough physicality. If K-State can continue to play as they have over the past two months, they could find themselves in the championship game on Saturday.